Five First Dates, an all-new HOT and hilarious brother’s best friend romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Erin McCarthy, is available now!
Every perfect rom-com has a twist that leads the heroine to her happily ever after.
Me? Somehow, in any room full of prince charmings, I always manage to find the one frog.
So this time, I’ve found my own twist. Four of my friends will each set me up. Four first dates. Four chances at my own happily-ever-after.
My brother’s best friend even offered to watch my baby while I’m out finding true love.
Only Maddox has sure grown up since I saw him last. The guy next door now looks more like the guy on a magazine cover. He’s inked and sexy. Muscular. Utterly irresistible. And . . . big.
Surely having a brother’s-friend-with-benefits won’t hurt my search for Mr. Right.
Especially if he’s my fifth first date…
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I woke up with a start, sitting up in panic. There was drool in the corner of my mouth. Why was I in bed? Where was my son?
I stumbled out of bed, heart racing.
I remembered almost immediately that Maddox had arrived and had told me to take a power nap. Right. Geez. I slowed down in the hallway, putting my hand onto my chest to take a deep breath and calm down. Sully was fine. He was with Maddox.
But when I went into the living room, they weren’t there. I realized the bathroom door was closed and the shower was running. Hold on. If Maddox was in the shower, where was Sully? Was he lying on my bathroom floor, which I had to admit, hadn’t been cleaned recently? The thought of my child rolling around on that cold, damp germ-riddled floor had me opening the bathroom door to rescue him.
Sully wasn’t on the floor. He wasn’t anywhere to be found.
My panic kicked into high gear again, and without hesitating, I ripped back the shower curtain to demand Maddox explain where the hell my child was. The words died on my tongue. Because Sully was in the shower with Maddox, looking pink and chubby and delighted, hand out in front of him to catch the water as he rested comfortably on Maddox’s hip.
Maddox’s naked hip.
Maddox, who didn’t look pink and chubby and delighted.
Maddox, who looked like a hard, sexy-as-hell, bad boy.
His head was under the water, body turned toward me so Sullivan was out of the direct line of the stream. Which meant I could see every single full-frontal inch of Maddox. He was hard. Everywhere. Muscles on muscles, decorated with tattoos over a good fifty percent of his incredible body. Incredible and firm body.
I tried not to look at everything. I really tried. But my gaze seemed to have a life of its own and took a peek at his lower body.
My mouth went dry. My cheeks hot.
That was a big cock.
Inches from me.
“Hey, is everything okay?” he asked, pulling me out of my dumbfounded stupor.
I yanked my gaze back to his face, mortified.
“You didn’t sleep very long,” he said when I just stared at him. He didn’t look even remotely uncomfortable with the fact that he was standing under a stream of hot water totally naked in front of me.
Finally, I pried my tongue off of the roof of my mouth. “I’m sorry, oh my God. I didn’t mean to…” I gestured to his body. “I just woke up and I didn’t know where Sully was and I freaked out. I’m not used to having help…” I trailed off, pressing my lips shut.
Maddox just gave me a grin. “Not a problem. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you. I should have told you I wanted a shower.”
Sully reached for me, bless his little heart. He saved me from further embarrassment.
“Grab a towel before you take him,” Maddox said. “He’s slippery.” He looked down at Sully and bounced him on his hip a little. “Aren’t you, little man?”
Now that my eyes were studiously focused above the waist, and I’d dragged my sex-deprived mind out of the gutter, I was amazed at how at ease Maddox was with my son. He’d been made to hold a baby, and as I reached for a towel, I felt a yearning for a father for Sully for the first time ever.
This was all really confusing, dangerous, and potentially disastrous.
I needed sleep and sex, clearly.
Towel in hand I got as close as was necessary to take Sully safely without touching any of Maddox’s naked body. My cheeks were hot. “Maybe I can take a shower after you,” I said. “I think I’m on day three without one.”
“You could hop in now,” he said. “There’s room.”
Maddox said it like it was totally normal. Like he wasn’t naked in front of a woman who’d never seen him naked before. Like he had seen menaked before, which he most definitely hadn’t. Like we were a couple with a baby and not old friends, if you could even really say that. It wasn’t like I knewMaddox. We’d never talked about anything real. He’d just always been around our house with Steven.
This new dynamic was bizarre for me.
“Why are you teasing me?” I asked, genuinely curious. And again, no filter. “It was always the other way around. I teased you because I was older.”
His eyebrows shot up as I took Sully from him and wrapped him fully in the towel. “Am I teasing you? Is that what I’m doing?”
“Well. Yes. Aren’t you?”
He put his head under the water and ran his hand over it. A few water drops arched out and landed on my arm. So much wet skin. Everywhere, just skin and wet. Lord, I was losing it.
“I was flirting, not teasing. There is a difference.”
That befuddled me. “Why?”
“Because you’re an attractive woman and I’m a normal guy who likes to flirt with women. Or maybe I’m just being friendly.”
I backed up, needing space. The room was warm and humid and I was having a very difficult time not looking where I shouldn’t look. “This arrangement isn’t going to work if you do that. Say suggestive things all the time.”
“Why? It’s not a big deal.” Maddox stared at me with those dark eyes. Intently. “Is it?”
What the hell was he really asking me? I had no idea.
I was flustered and I took another step backward. “Maddy. Stop. You’re barely out of high school and I’m a mother. You’re going to be my nanny. We have to be professional. Maybe that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean. Friends who are helping each other. Platonic friends. Not flirty. You’re like a little brother to me.”
The look he gave me was smoldering. His nostrils flared. His shoulders tensed. He paused with the bottle of shampoo in his hand. “Sure,” he said, his casual voice completely at odds with the intensity of his expression. “Whatever you want, Savannah. I promise not to flirt with you.”
Then he grabbed the curtain and pulled it shut, blocking him from my view.
Good. Great. Perfect. Glad we had established boundaries. That was the way it needed to be.
I had no business behaving in any other way than as a big sister to Maddox.
So why did I feel so disappointed?
Because I didn’t look at him and see a kid brother anymore. I hadn’t known him in years and he was different now. It was terrifying.
I took my son out of the bathroom and to my bedroom to get him diapered and dressed.
Maybe it was time to start dating again. Over a year without a date or sex was clearly too long.
I was an eternal optimist. I believed in a happily ever after. I could watch romantic comedies for seventy-two hours straight. I loved love.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at it personally.
My friends all told me I was too quick to overlook red flags and to give people second chances. The first was probably accurate. The second I stood by. Everyone deserves a second chance. But my bullshit meter was definitely broken.
Sully’s father had looked great on paper. A contracts lawyer. Apartment in SoHo. Wealthy parents who had given him a private school education in Manhattan. He’d said he was interested in a relationship. In leaving behind his playboy twenties and settling down into something “real” since he had turned thirty.
Apparently, an unplanned pregnancy had been too real.
I had expected him to be shocked and not entirely thrilled with the news. I had not expected him to be livid. When I had told him I was having the baby, he’d punched a hole in the wall, terrifying me. He’d said terrible things, accused me of entrapment.
No happily ever after.
Just me getting the hell out of there and vowing to stay the hell away from Adam. It was probably the first time I would not have given someone a second chance. Not that he’d wanted one, but my concern had shifted from my own personal feelings to concern for my unborn baby.
The maternal instinct was strong. Like the force.
I wanted no part of a father being around if he resented it.
Laying Sully on my bed, I rubbed his soft skin with the towel and felt my heart swell with love for him. He was perfection even if his sperm donor had been, well, not so great.
I hated to think of him as a dick. Even if he was one.
Moving quickly before Sully objected, I got a diaper on him and a clean onesie. Then little khakis and a blue sweater. The fact that they made khakis for six-month-old babies gave me a happiness I couldn’t even express. Could anything on the planet be cuter?
I picked him up and gave him a belly kiss. “You look like a little man,” I cooed to him.
“He looks like a Best Buy employee,” Maddox said from the doorway. His expression was amused.
I frowned. Maddox was standing there in his towel. “What do you think he should wear, a skull and crossbones? He’s six months old.”
“That or maybe a puppy T-shirt or something. What you have on him now is what my grandfather wears to church.”
Offended, I wanted to exit my bedroom, but he was blocking the door. “You have a lot of opinions for someone who isn’t a parent. I’m the fashion expert, remember? I can handle dressing a baby. My baby.”
He held his hands up, nearly giving me a heart attack when his towel slipped. He grabbed it before it dropped to the floor. “Sorry. I was just teasing. I would never judge you on how you parent. I just thought since we’re friends, we can be cool with each other.”
That flustered me. I had really thought this was going to be a lot easier. More comfortable. But Maddox was confusing me. “I guess that’s fair,” I said, because I didn’t know what else to say. “I did used to tease you a lot when you were a kid, like I said before.”
He was leaning on the doorframe, showing no signs of moving or getting dressed or even putting the towel back in place. He was just holding it in front of his junk, but his hips were exposed.
“No, you didn’t. Not really.” His voice was soft. “I took a lot of crap from other kids for being the poor kid with the hot, young mom, but you weren’t like that. You were nice to me, Savannah, and I appreciated it. More than you know.”
My shoulders relaxed. I felt a warmth for him that was more familiar territory. Maddox had been a quiet kid, Steven his primary friend. I had felt sorry for him because he’d lived over a restaurant in downtown Stroudsburg while the rest of us in our school lived in suburban houses. His mother had been a waitress, very young, a MILF before the term had existed. Guys had always been catcalling her and flirting with her and she’d been sassy, flipping them off and hurtling wisecracks back.
She’d called Maddox “Weirdo” all the time. It had seemed to be an affectionate nickname, but not one I would have enjoyed.
“How is your mom?” I asked. “And your brother and sisters?”
He finally wrapped the towel around himself fully, tucking the edge. “She’s good. She’s freaking out about turning thirty-nine, but otherwise she’s great.”
Holy cow, his mother was only thirteen years older than me? That would have made her fifteen when he was born. Having been raising Sully on my own for six months at my age, I had a whole new respect for his mother.
“The kids are all mostly normal, mostly not assholes.” There was warmth and pride in his voice. “Mike is great, too. I never thought I wanted a stepfather but he’s an alright guy. He’s the one who got me interested in ink. And motorcycles.”
His stepfather owned an auto body shop back home and he’d seemed successful, moving Maddox and his mother into a colonial before they started producing children one after the other. They were a coolfamily, with artistic children, and yes, skull and crossbones on their clothes. In comparison, my family had been very traditional. My mother was a teacher, my father an accountant. There was a lot of khaki and beige in our house. I was comfortable with beige. I wanted a colonial in neutral paint colors someday.
I glanced at Maddox’s chest. I couldn’t help it. It was right in front of me. “I’ll make some dinner while you get dressed and you can tell me all about your ink.”
“Sounds like a plan. Here, give me the baby so you can do your thing in the kitchen.” He reached out for Sully.
When he did, the knot on the towel gave way a second time and it pooled at his ankles. He didn’t react at all to being fully naked.
He just took my son, saying, “I didn’t mean to mock your threads, little man. It’s not your fault your mom digs khakis.”
He turned and walked down the hallway, ignoring the towel, and giving me a mouthwatering view of a very tight ass.
Note to self: Maddox was comfortable being naked.
I scooped up the abandoned towel and debated whether that was the world’s greatest news or the worst.
USA Today and New York Times bestselling author Erin McCarthy sold her first book in 2002 and has since written over seventy-five novels and novellas in the romance and mystery genres. Erin has a special weakness for high-heeled boots, martinis, and Frank Sinatra. She lives with her renovation-addicted husband (he built her a bar, so it’s all good!) and their blended family of kids and rescue dogs.
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